The parents and young son of 32-year-old Sean Arlt brought this case seeking justice and reforms from the Santa Cruz Police Department that mismanaged his psychotic episode, unnecessarily shooting and taking the life of this gentle and beloved man. Officers knew that Sean was having a psychotic episode and that he had never hurt anyone. Officers failed to use appropriate tactical skills to use cover and distance to control the situation and its timing, then “panicked” and shot Sean in the middle of the street, in the middle of the night, when he tried to walk past them. This shooting caused untold grief to his parents, his son and son’s mother, and to the Santa Cruz community. Recognizing the need for better practices, this lawsuit has caused the Santa Cruz Police Department to change its deadly force policy to only allow officers to shoot a person if officers are facing an “immediate” threat — as Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals law requires. The Police Department also agreed to build upon its improved training for handling incidents involving mentally disturbed people, with more training in safer tactics for addressing mentally ill people, and to use beneficial features from the “Memphis Model” for handling police interactions with mentally ill people.


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